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PULP HERO G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES: STORIES ONE TO THREE

Bat Staffel bigBalladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the neglected Pulp Hero G-8. This marks the beginning of a story-by- story look at the adventures of this World War One American fighter pilot who – along with his two wingmen the Battle Aces – took on various supernatural and super- scientific menaces thrown at the Allied Powers by the Central Powers of Germany, Austria- Hungary and the Ottoman Muslim Turks.

G-8 was created by Robert J Hogan in 1933 when World War One was still being called simply the World War or the Great War. Over the next eleven years Hogan wrote 110 stories featuring the adventures of G-8, the street-smart pug Nippy Weston and the brawny giant Bull Martin. Our hero – whose real name was never revealed – served as an aerial commando and spy as well as a sort of Indiana Jones/ Brisco County Junior figure against his archenemy Doktor Krueger and a host of other mad scientists, aliens and monsters that the Central Powers had up their sleeve.

The regular cast was rounded out by Battle, G-8’s British manservant and by our hero’s girlfriend R-1: an American nurse/ spy whose real name, like G-8’s was never revealed. 

Bat Staffel1. THE BAT STAFFEL (Oct 1933) – This debut adventure of G-8 and his Battle Aces (Bull Martin and Nippy Weston) featured their very first clash with Germany’s brilliant mad scientist Doktor Krueger (Freddy’s ancestor no doubt). During one of their aerial commando raids on a Top Secret German installation our heroes discover that Doktor Krueger has harnessed the power of an entire flock of gigantic plane-sized bats who breathe a deadly gas that kills human beings upon exposure, shriveling them up until they are nothing but powder.

G-8 and the Battle Aces escape to warn the Allies what they will soon be up against and are sent back on a daring, desperate mission to nip this bizarre menace in the bud before the giant bats and their “halitosis of death” can turn the tide of the war. Ultimately G-8 and his wingmen wind up inside an enormous cavern which houses the flock of gigantic bats. In a showdown with Doktor Krueger they learn that the bats are really just gigantic android creations of the good doctor, who also developed the deadly gas that the constructs “breathe”. Continue reading

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PULP HERO NORTHWEST SMITH: HIS FINAL STORY

Northwest Smith no letteringBalladeer’s Blog concludes its examination of another neglected pulp hero – in this case Northwest Smith. Created by the female author C.L. Moore in the 1930s Northwest Smith was a ruthless outer-space smuggler and mercenary decades before Han Solo. With his Venusian partner Yarol at his side and armed with a trusty blaster Smith roamed our solar system in his deceptively fast spaceship The Maid. For more on Northwest Smith and other neglected pulp heroes click here: https://glitternight.com/pulp-heroes/ 

13. SONG IN A MINOR KEY – For this farewell vignette featuring Northwest Smith we get an oddly touching piece that enhances Smith’s character without ruining the mystery. He and Yarol are back on Earth to visit the spot where Northwest committed his first crime exactly 20 years earlier, setting his life on its present course.

Northwest Smith 3He reveals that Northwest Smith is not his real name (Well, duh! I always figured his real name was Northwest Rabinowitz.) and is uncharacteristically serious- minded as he soaks in the atmosphere of the woodland area where his fate was determined so long ago.  

Our melancholy outlaw ruefully ponders his life that might have been and the woman he might have shared that life with. He contemplates the home they might have had together and more as we get tantalizing glimpses into Smith’s past here in this place … where he killed his first man. Continue reading

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PULP HERO NORTHWEST SMITH: STORIES ELEVEN AND TWELVE

Northwest Smith frenchBalladeer’s Blog continues its examination of another neglected pulp hero – in this case Northwest Smith. Created by the female author C.L. Moore in the 1930′s Northwest Smith was a ruthless outer-space smuggler and mercenary decades before Han Solo. With his Venusian partner Yarol at his side and armed with a trusty blaster Smith roamed our solar system in his deceptively fast spaceship The Maid. For more on Northwest Smith and other neglected pulp heroes click here: https://glitternight.com/pulp-heroes/ 

11. QUEST OF THE STAR STONE (1937) – It’s crossover time! C.L. Moore decided to do a story in which her two most famous pulp creations – Northwest Smith and Jirel of Joiry – meet each other. Trouble is Jirel’s adventures take place around the year 1500 while Northwest Smith’s stories are set over 1,000 years later. Any reader of pulp fiction knows that’s no real obstacle so let’s dive in.

Jirel of JoiryThe story opens in Jirel’s time. She is leading her obedient band of male outlaws in an assault on the castle of a sorceror named Franga. Our sword-wielding heroine battles her way through to Franga’s chamber where she seizes a mystic gem called the Star Stone. That jewel is so powerful but so unfathomable that even Franga was still trying to discover how to harness its arcane energies. Jirel defeats Franga and forces him to flee between dimensions, but as he leaves he promises Jirel that he’ll return to get revenge on her and get the Star Stone back – just as soon as he finds a champion capable of matching Jirel’s courage, cunning and force of will. “No matter what world or what time I find them in” he adds, letting the reader know what’s coming up. Continue reading

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PULP HERO NORTHWEST SMITH: STORIES NINE AND TEN

Northwest Smith 6Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of another neglected pulp hero – in this case Northwest Smith. Created by the female author C.L. Moore in the 1930s Northwest Smith was a ruthless outer-space smuggler and mercenary decades before Han Solo. With his Venusian partner Yarol at his side and armed with a trusty blaster Smith roamed the solar system in his deceptively fast spaceship The Maid. For more on Northwest Smith and other neglected pulp heroes click here: https://glitternight.com/pulp-heroes/ 

9. LOST PARADISE (1936) – A smuggling job has taken Northwest Smith and Yarol to Earth. Afterward the pair find themselves relaxing in New York City which, in their era, is a multi-leveled metropolis reaching high into the sky.

The pair witness the theft of an enigmatic parcel from a very small and fragile man. That man turns out to be a member of the Seles race; a people who have secretly lived among humans for millions of years. The Seles are so ancient in fact that they lived on Earth long before the continents had their present shape. The tectonic shifts that created the modern-day layout of the planet destroyed the cities of the Seles, who established subterranean bases where they have lived undetected by humanity since then. Continue reading

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PULP HERO NORTHWEST SMITH: STORIES SEVEN AND EIGHT

Northwest Smith coverBalladeer’s Blog continues its examination of another neglected pulp hero – in this case Northwest Smith. Created by the female author C.L. Moore in the 1930′s Northwest Smith was a ruthless outer-space smuggler and mercenary decades before Han Solo. With his Venusian partner Yarol at his side and armed with a trusty blaster Smith roamed the solar system in his deceptively fast spaceship The Maid. For more on Northwest Smith and other neglected pulp heroes click here: https://glitternight.com/pulp-heroes/ 

7. THE COLD GRAY GOD (1935) – A smuggling jaunt has brought Northwest Smith back to Mars. While hanging out in the cold and snowy Martian city of Righa our hero gets hired by a most unusual client. Her name is Jaida, a beautiful Venusian woman who years previously had been THE singing sensation of the Cabaret circuit at the network of casinos and leisure resorts of Jupiter’s colonized moons. At the height of her fame Jaida turned her back on success and went into seclusion.

It turns out the former singer “found religion” in the form of the esoteric worship of The Un-Nameable One, the god of Mars’ distant past. The god is worshipped now only by super-secretive cults throughout the solar system; cults which claim to know the secrets of the ancient lettering which adorns most Martian households but whose meaning has long been forgotten. Jaida hires Smith to recover a stolen relic of the dark religion from the Righa crook who nabbed it. Continue reading

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PULP HERO NORTHWEST SMITH: STORIES FIVE AND SIX

Northwest Smith: C.L. Moore's ruthless swashbuckler of the spaceways.

Northwest Smith: C.L. Moore’s ruthless swashbuckler of the spaceways.

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of another neglected pulp hero – in this case Northwest Smith. Created by the female author C.L. Moore in the 1930s Northwest Smith was a ruthless outer-space smuggler and mercenary decades before Han Solo. With his Venusian partner Yarol at his side and armed with a trusty blaster Smith roamed the solar system in his deceptively fast spaceship The Maid. For more on Northwest Smith and other neglected pulp heroes click here: https://glitternight.com/pulp-heroes/ 

5. JULHI (1935) – After a smuggling run to Venus Northwest Smith foolishly lets his guard down in an underworld tavern and gets shanghaied away to the Venusian island called Vonng. Smith is the latest kidnap victim from lowlife hangouts to wake up weaponless on the deserted island as a sacrifice to Julhi, a lovely yet monstrous creature with a beautiful upper body but multiple lower limbs.

Julhi is just one of a race whose dimension shares the same space as Vonng’s crumbled ruins but where time passes much more slowly than in our realm. The story wouldn’t be out of place on the renewed Doctor Who series. Continue reading

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PULP HERO NORTHWEST SMITH: STORIES THREE AND FOUR

Northwest Smith 3Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of another neglected pulp hero – in this case Northwest Smith. Created by the female author C.L. Moore in the 1930’s Northwest Smith was a ruthless outer-space smuggler and mercenary decades before Han Solo. With his Venusian partner Yarol at his side and armed with a trusty blaster Smith roamed the solar system in his deceptively fast spaceship The Maid. In the course of their criminal pursuits the two often found themselves in the role of reluctant heroes, sometimes with the fate of entire planets at stake. For more on Northwest Smith and other neglected pulp heroes click here:  https://glitternight.com/pulp-heroes/ 

3. SCARLET DREAM (1934) – Once again lying low between illegal activities of some sort Northwest Smith finds himself in the Martian city of Lakkmanda. The city’s illicit markets are legendary throughout the solar system and Smith buys a very odd scarlet blanket made of some otherworldly silk-like material. The blanket was found on a deserted spaceship with no sign left of the original crew, which should have warned our hero away from the odd blanket but if it had there would be no story. Continue reading

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PULP HERO NORTHWEST SMITH – STORIES 1 AND 2

PZO8005-Cover.inddBalladeer’s Blog continues its examination of another neglected pulp hero – in this case Northwest Smith. Created by the female author C.L. Moore in the 1930s Northwest Smith was a ruthless outer-space smuggler and mercenary decades before Han Solo. With his Venusian partner Yarol at his side and armed with a trusty blaster Smith roamed the solar system in his deceptively fast spaceship The Maid. In the course of their criminal pursuits the two often found themselves in the role of reluctant heroes, sometimes with the fate of entire planets at stake. For more on Northwest Smith and other neglected pulp heroes click here: https://glitternight.com/pulp-heroes/ 

1. SHAMBLEAU (1933) – In this Northwest Smith debut story our anti-hero is lying low between smuggling capers in the Martian city of Lakkdarol. While passing time in the more dangerous quarters of the city Northwest gets the hots for a Martian woman of the Shambleau species and saves her from being killed by a pursuing mob of Martians, Earth colonists and expatriate swamp-men from Venus. Continue reading

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THE MATARESE CIRCLE (1979): BOOK REVIEW

Matarese CircleTHE MATARESE CIRCLE (1979) 

TIME PERIOD: Late 1970s with investigations into events from before World War One and later.

To me this lengthy, epic espionage novel from Robert Ludlum was his finest work, partly because it nicely encapsulated how – over the course of the 20th Century – the world gradually found itself at the mercy of elaborate “intelligence communities”  (LMAO) working in conjunction with international corporate fascists.  

There’s something almost poetic about the way that – with the hindsight we have now – the bitter enmity between the novel’s central characters (one a U.S. agent and the other a Soviet agent) is washed away a mere decade before the real-world collapse of the Cold War paradigm.

And with that same hindsight it’s almost eerie how those two rivals come to realize that the real seeds of future totalitarianism lie in the New Feudalism’s ugly motto: Nations are obsolete, so wealth wedded to unchecked political power is the coming thing. Ludlum’s arch-villain Guillaume de Matarese was positively prescient.

LEAD HERO: Brandon Alan Scofield – Codename: Beowulf Agate. Forty-six year old veteran of Consular Operations, Ludlum’s fictional Intelligence Organization specializing in defections from hostile nations – mostly Communist – to the United States.

Matarese Circle 2As The Matarese Circle opens in 1979, Scofield has been with Consular Operations  for 22 years, almost since its founding. A Harvard grad fluent in multiple languages, Brandon joined the U.S. State Department right out of college. After a couple years in the “real” State Department he gravitated to State’s covert section Consular Operations (or Cons Op for short). 

In those early years Cons Op’s activities were not yet totally Top Secret. They were virtually a humanitarian organization which tried to accommodate as many people fleeing the Iron Curtain nations as possible. So many Eastern Europeans began seeking asylum in the Western World that the Soviets realized they had to take steps to cut off the flow of escapees.

Similar to the way they would later construct the Berlin Wall to prevent flight from East Berlin in particular, the Soviets clamped down on potential defections throughout Europe and elsewhere. Soviet intelligence agents – among them Vasili Taleniekov – began shutting down the almost openly- operating Cons Op defection network. Continue reading

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TWENTY BEST MOON MAN PULP STORIES

Frederick C Davis

Frederick C Davis: It’s difficult not to picture him as Stephen Thatcher after seeing this picture.

Balladeer’s Blog’s 2020 theme of Top Twenty lists continues with this look at the 20 best pulp stories featuring Frederick C Davis’ hero the Moon Man (1933-1937). The Moon Man was really police detective Stephen Thatcher, who often circumvented the massive corruption in Great City by taking the law into his own hands.

Donning a black outfit and a helmet made of one-way Argus-glass, Thatcher went into action as the Moon Man, defeating and robbing criminals – both blue-collar AND white-collar – and using their ill-gotten gains to help the suffering poor of the city. This made him hunted by both the crooks and the cops years before the Green Hornet came along. For more on the Moon Man click HERE 

Moon Man 1THE SINISTER SPHERE

Villains: Crooked millionaire Martin Richmond and Kent Atwell, who is embezzling from a charity.

Story: This very first Moon Man story perfectly establishes the background of the tales. The Moon Man robs from a crooked millionaire and has his sidekick Angel (Ned Dargan) distribute the loot among Great City’s poor. Stephen Thatcher’s lady love Sue McEwen has no idea her beau is the romantic Moon Man.

Sue’s father Gil and Stephen’s father Peter are the city’s top cops and have been trying to catch the elusive Robin Hood figure for months. MM also recovers thousands of dollars stolen from a charity by a white-collar criminal. 

THE SILVER SECRET

Villain: Corrupt Judge Benjamin, Great City’s secret crime boss. Continue reading

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